Posted by: 2stepsback | August 3, 2007

Backing up data

If you use Windows, then this post is for you.

Often, due to various hardware/software reasons, you will find that your computer or your hard disk “crashes” and you are left wondering how you are going to get your data back.
If it’s not too bad a crash, your data is probably lying there on the hard disk, and can be recovered. There are lots of freeware or excellent shareware/commercial programs that do an excellent job of recovering your data under such circumstances.
A few places to look for these programs:

and of course, sf.net.

These places also give you programs to prevent problems arising from “crashes”, although they may not be able to prevent the crashes themselves.

A few programs (or collections of programs) that I find extremely impressive are:

  • Ultimate Boot CD (ubcd.sourceforge.net)
    It is a near comprehensive set of mostly free tools that allow you to do a lot of rescue work with little effort.
  • DrvImageXML
  • DrvImagerXP – this particular program, I cannot recommend highly enough. The author of this program has gone to great lengths to write a completely fair, unbiased and thorough manual on how to backup and restore partitions on your hard disk. For the manual alone, you should probably purchase the program (although, IIRC, it is freeware 😉 )
    When you read the manual, you find him advocating the use of humble old xcopy when imaging is not what you want, but simply backup. But that could be challenging depending upon your expertise with the command line in newer Windows versions.

Then you face the question – Which medium is most suitable?

  • a second hard disk,
  • a CD/DVD-R,
  • a CD/DVD-RW, or,
  • an external Flash Drive

You should choose depending on what kind of work you do on your computer.
For example,

  • if you want your computer running 24 hrs of the day, a second hard disk (or RAID?) is essential.
  • If you have just personal data, depending on the volume of data, a CD-R or DVD-R would suffice.
  • If you carry your data with you between PCs, a flash drive is best. A flash drive might also be useful if you cannot carry a magnetic hard disk with you, but I am not 100% sure it will do.

Imaging is when you want to store the entire partition or disk, even bit-by-bit, to a single file which can then be used to load the harddisk as and when required. Popular commercial programs are available from Acronis and Norton.
If you use Linux, well, you already have everything you need if you have got a relatively recent distribution like Fedora 7, Ubuntu 7.04, SUSE/OpenSUSE, Slackware, Debian or PCLinuxOS.
Linux installers have improved dramatically over the last few years and so, you should see at least one distribution. You can look up Youtube and see full installation videos before you try out the install yourself.

But, as always, before trying out anything new, first backup all your data !

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